Klopp banks on Chelsea to blunt City

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Sport -

Jür­gen Klopp will be des­per­ately hop­ing Chelsea can slow down Manch­ester City’s ti­tle charge this week­end as he bal­ances his Premier League am­bi­tions with a Cham­pi­ons League decider against Napoli.

Un­beaten Liver­pool are cling­ing on in the English soc­cer ti­tle race – scor­ing deep into added time against Ever­ton last week and re­cov­er­ing from a goal down to beat Burn­ley on Wed­nes­day to move just two points be­hind City.

Else­where, all eyes will again be on the next in­stal­ment in the Old Traf­ford soap opera, with stut­ter­ing Manch­ester United host­ing bot­tom club Ful­ham.

Tot­ten­ham, yet to reg­is­ter a sin­gle draw in the Premier League this sea­son, are away to Le­ices­ter. Arse­nal play lowly Hud­der­s­field.

AFP Sports picks out some of the main talk­ing points ahead of the week­end fix­tures in the Premier League.

Chelsea were un­beaten in their first 12 Premier League games, de­ter­minedly hang­ing on to the coat-tails of Manch­ester City and Liver­pool

But if they lose to Pep Guardi­ola’s league lead­ers at Stam­ford Bridge on Satur­day they will be look­ing at a yawn­ing gap of 13 points – and it would be their third de­feat in four league games.

Chelsea de­fender Mar­cos Alonso has urged his team- mates to for­get about the gap, which al­ready looks omi­nously big.

“If we lose we are go­ing to be 13 points from the top and that’s a lot of points but we have to think, pre­pare for the game well and not pay at­ten­tion to the ta­ble at the mo­ment,” he said. “It’s the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to come back.”

Jose Mour­inho is des­per­ately cast­ing around for solutions to the malaise at Old Traf­ford – but is all the chop­ping and chang­ing hin­der­ing, rather than help­ing?

Manch­ester United have made a to­tal of 46 changes to their start­ing XI in the Premier League so far this sea­son, in­clud­ing seven changes on Wednes- day against Arse­nal.

For­mer United de­fender Rio Fer­di­nand is con­cerned over the tin­ker­ing.

“Some­thing needs to be done,” Fer­di­nand said. “The com­mon thing that we’ve seen with this team un­der Mour­inho is changes ev­ery week – changes, changes, changes.

“That doesn’t bode well for me in terms of the play­ers and for the team be­cause you need to form re­la­tion­ships within a team and you can’t do that when there’s chop­ping and chang­ing, week in and week out.”

Klopp made seven changes for his side’s mid­week match against Burn­ley, start­ing with­out any of the front three of Sa- dio Mane, Mo­hamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the first time since Septem­ber 2017.

De­spite a scare at Turf Moor, Liver­pool won 3-1, tak­ing their tally to 39 points af­ter 15 matches – more than any other An­field side in his­tory.

On Tues­day they face Napoli at An­field with the prospect of crash­ing out of the Cham­pi­ons League group stage just over six months af­ter reach­ing the fi­nal – but first they must ne­go­ti­ate a trip to high-fly­ing Bournemouth.

For a side that is un­beaten in 20 matches, Arse­nal have the cu­ri­ous record of not once lead­ing at half­time in a Premier League game this sea­son.

Wed­nes­day was no dif­fer­ent as Manch­ester United pegged them back to reach half­time at 1-1.

But Arse­nal have scored more sec­ond-half goals than any other team – 25 – and four points in their past two games against Spurs and United sug­gest Unai Emery is adding steel to a side that had flat­lined un­der Arsene Wenger.

Fix­tures

Satur­day

Bournemouth v Liver­pool , Arse­nal v Hud­der­s­field, Burn­ley v Brighton, Cardiff v Southamp­ton, Manch­ester United v Ful­ham, West Ham v Crys­tal Palace, Chelsea v Manch­ester City, Le­ices­ter v Tot­ten­ham

Sun­day New­cas­tle v Wolves

Mon­day

Ever­ton v Wat­ford – AFP

Pho­to­graph: AFP

CHAS­ING: Chelsea’s Mar­cos Alonso in ac­tion

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